History of Zion Lutheran Bunker Hill Illinois

The formal organization of Zion Lutheran Congregation began in 1892. It appears that the first Lutheran service was conducted by the Rev. E. T. Richter, pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church of Dorsey. The congregation numbered 13 families. Worship services were conducted in various places. Most of the services were conducted in the old public school and in Huber’s Hall, above what now is the Bunker Hill Pharmacy.

In the spring of 1892 the advisability of building a house of worship was discussed. On June 4, 1892. Five members signed the Church Constitution. The congregation was given the name, “The Evangelical Zion Congregation in and about Bunker Hill.” A lot, 231 feet by 99 feet, was purchased for $200 dollars and a contract was signed to build a frame church 26 feet by 40 feet. The cornerstone was laid Nov. 9, 1893, and the building was dedicated April 9, 1893. April 1894, the congregation, with only fourteen voting members, resolved to call a resident pastor. The Rev. John Holthusen became the first pastor and served from 1894 to 1896. In addition to serving as pastor, he was also to conduct a Christian day school. In 1903, a lot 231 feet by 99 feet just east of the church was purchased to build a parsonage. In 1922, the congregation had grown to such an extent that the seating capacity had become inadequate. It was resolved to build a new church, a frame building 40 by 70 feet, with a full basement. The old church was dismantled, and materials from it were incorporated into the new building. This second house of worship was dedicated on January 28, 1923, Rev. Edward J. Birner, pastor, officiating. On January 25, 1948, the 25th anniversary of the dedication was celebrated. The church had just been renovated and beautified at considerable costs.

On March 19, 1948, a tornado demolished an estimated 80% of the town. The recently renovated church was completely destroyed, as well as the parsonage. For two months after the storm, the congregation worshipped in St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Prairietown. For three months after that, the services were held in the local Lincoln Theatre. From September l948 to December 1951, the congregation met in the basement of the old church, over which a roof had been placed. A new parsonage was constructed in 1948 and in the same year a lot was purchased to the west of the demolished church to serve as the site for the new church. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church were conducted on August 6, 1950. This new church was completed and dedicated on January 27, 1952. January 1962, the congregation approved the construction of an educational building. The ground breaking ceremonies were held on August 3, 1963, and the cornerstone laying ceremonies on December 8, and the completed building was dedicated on May 2, 1964.

In 1895, the Zion Lutheran Congregation opened a Christian Day School, which was conducted in the church. The various pastors took on the additional duties of teaching school. Beginning in 1924 regular teachers served in the school. In 1932, due chiefly to financial depression, the Christian Day School was closed. In the fall of 1932, Pastor E.T.J. Birner organized the first Bible Class. In the spring of 1933, Sunday school for children of pre-confirmation age was organized. After the School was closed in 1932, the Pastor began to give religious instruction on Saturday mornings to children not yet confirmed. For several years confirmation classes have been held for the students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. The current pastor at Zion Bunker Hill is Brian Holle.